These days almost every social media outlet allows for private messaging. Even Pinterest recently jumped on the messaging bandwagon. The unfortunate side effect is that scammers are quick to jump on too.

When con artists create emails, links or web pages assuming the identity of a trustworthy source and prompt you to share sensitive personal data, it’s called “phishing”. Phishing is big business for cyber criminals.

Unfortunately, social media is no safe haven. Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin is warning social media users that scammers can use social networks to pose as ‘friends’ through personalized, fraudulent messages to steal your personal information.

How the Scam Works:

A phishing message comes in that appears to be from a friend of a friend, coworker or other connection claiming to know you. The message may even address you by name, but the content is strange. Often they contain misspellings and a link or attachment of some kind. If you click on the link, you could end up downloading malware on to your computer.

Clicking the link or attachment may also hand over your account to a hacker. This is called hijacking. In this case, a scammer can take over your account and send spam to people in your contact list or post spam posing as you.

Some scammers go so far as to set up fake accounts and send out friend requests to gain access to personal information. Others rely on social media users not setting tight privacy settings, so their basic information, such as their name, email address and friends’ names, can be seen by the public.

To avoid phishing scams, BBB suggests the following:

  • Set strict privacy setting. Periodically check your privacy settings on all social media sites. Limit your profile views to only the people you trust with your information.
  • Protect your computer. Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date. If you click on a link, be sure to run a virus scan on your computer right away.
  • Never give out personal information. Don’t reply to an email that is asking you to reply with personal information such as passwords or Social Security numbers. Even if the email or link appears to be from a trusted source, this may be a phishing message.
  • Beware of suspicious links. Do not click on any links from anyone who you are unfamiliar with. These files can contain viruses or other malware that can weaken your computer's security. If you really want to check out a link sent to you or posted by a friend, hover over the link with cursor and research the company or individual to confirm they are trustworthy at
  • Always verify a website’s security before sharing information. Whenever you are providing sensitive information such as credit cards or bank information, the address bar should shows “https://” which indicates that the web page is secure.
  • When in doubt, press delete. Links in email, tweets, posts and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark it as junk email.

For more tips you can trust, visit For the latest news and information, follow the BBB on Facebook and Twitter.
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